Global Classrooms: Exploring Worldschooling - SE2EP14 - Lainie Liberti

Global Classrooms: Exploring Worldschooling - SE2EP14 - Lainie Liberti

Welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology.

Today we have a very special guest with us - Lainie Liberti.

Lainie is an author, speaker, community leader, and advocate for alternative education who has been pioneering the worldschooling movement.

She has founded Transformative Mentoring for Teens, co-founded Project World School, and has recently released her first book, "Seen, Heard & Understood", which quickly climbed to the top of the Parenting New Releases category on Amazon.

Through her work and travels, Lainie has developed a wealth of knowledge on the subject of personalised learning and adolescent mental health.

Speaker 1 (00:08):

Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.

Speaker 2 (00:44):

Welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology. Today we have a very special guest with us, Laney Liberty Laney is an author, a speaker, community leader, an advocate for alternative education, who has been pioneering the world schooling movement. She has founded transformative mentoring for teens, co-founded Project World School, and has recently released her first book, seen, heard, and Understood, which quickly climbed to the top of the parenting new releases category on Amazon. Through her work in travels, Laney has developed a wealth of knowledge on the subject of personalized learning and adolescent mental health, and we are very excited to dive into these topics and more in today's podcast. Laney, welcome to the show. Uh, thanks for joining us. Please share with our listeners in your own words what you do and what you are passionate about.

Speaker 3 (01:35):

Wonderful. Yes, thank you for the invitation, Jamie. I'm so happy to be here with you on your podcast. So, like you said, my name is Laney Liberty and one of the most important roles that I play you left out, and that is the role of being a mom. Um, I would say that's probably the most meaningful role I've taken on in my, you know, 50 some odd years of life. And, um, that's the role that actually inspires all the work that I do. And I just wanna give you a teeny bit of my origin story, which will help bring some context to all the conversation we're about ready to dive into. So, um, I, uh, like I said, I'm am a mom. I'm a single parent, and I'm originally from California. And in 2008, uh, California experienced a crash of our economy and that affected the whole state.


And I was a business owner at the time. Um, having worked in advertising and marketing for almost 18 years in the last eight of those years were my business, my agency, it was a branding agency that, um, green eco companies and nonprofits. But the thing that I heard all the time from my son, who was really the most important thing to me, mom, you're always working and you never spend time with me. And that cut right through to my heart like a rusty knife. It just, I mean, I can't even tell you like how hard that is to hear, and especially from the ears of a single parent. We're doing everything that we can to provide, to be, you know, mom, dad, all of it. Um, but there's never enough hours in the day. And when the economy crashed, it was for me the opportunity to make a change.


So near the end of the year of 2008, I knew I wasn't bringing my staff back. And one night just inspiration, I turned to my son and it was like 9:00 PM on, on an OC in an October night. And I looked at him and we were in the office way too late, and I said to him, his name is Miro. I said, Miro, what do you think if we just get rid of all this stuff and go have an adventure? And he put down, he stopped his game, of course, we're talking about technology. He stopped playing his game. He turned around, he looked at me and he said, are you serious? And I said, oh, yeah. And he's like, okay, one question first. He's like, sure. And he said, do I have to go to school? And I said, no, that's okay. Let's go have an adventure.


I am sure that, you know, one year, which is what we decided on one year of travel is gonna be way more educational than fifth grade could be, of course. And we decided to do that. With that we were off. It took about six months to prepare everything. And, you know, we put things in storage and sold and gave away most of our stuff. And we were off. And we had enough savings for one year. And because of the comment that my son had always said to me that I didn't spend time, my main goal was to be present and I wanted to be in partnership with him, with everything that we did. This adventure was our adventure. This adventure was not me yanking and pulling him to have fun, you know, based on something that I wanted to do. This was our adventure in partnership.


And so together we created all of these sort of, um, I call 'em scaffolding because I kind of need to know how I can manage, you know, the, the world, you know, when, when it's choosing a, when we're choosing a non-conventional path, and the scaffolding look like everything that we decide we're gonna do in partnership. Um, I'm not the boss. You're not the boss, but together we are accountable for making all of the decisions about what we're gonna spend, where we're going, how long we're staying, what we're gonna do, what our answers are going to be to everything. And we're just going to do this completely in partnership. And we created some other structures in place, and I could talk about those later if you're interested. Just let me know. Um, but, you know, it's, that was almost, that was 15 years ago actually. And just to let you know, he was nine when we left 10, just turning 10.


He's now 24. And, um, our one year turned into really 13, 12 and a half, 13 years. And then the years during Covid, we were here in Mexico, not traveling, but that was 15 years ago. So it, my son has grown up, um, on the road or outside of his home country, more, more than he's actually spent inside of his home country. And through that journey, our journey was really a focus on learning on, uh, immersive experiential learning. We also combined a lot of social learning and as well as accountability towards our mental health. So to be in partnership with another person, it doesn't mean you are equal or you are the same, it just means two people. Nobody has power over each other. Each one of us has different roles. And part of my role was to help facilitate the learning. And part of his role was to continue to be curious and bring joy.


And we did all of those things and we kept, um, you know, adjusting and bringing in more tools and creating more structure that we needed, um, to live without rules. And you're like, wait, what? Structure without rules, yeah, it can be done. And all of that brought together, um, the launch of a new business, which you mentioned in the introduction, which was Project World School that we launched Project World School, uh, together. My son and I, when he was 14, um, were co-founders and we brought about 200 teens to different places in the world to have these immersive learning experiences and the immersive learning experiences are in community. And a lot of times the teens that we work with have never been out of their home country, have never had an experience where they stepped outside of their comfort zone away from their parents. And they had to really rely on the strength of their character and who they were in order to really, you know, understand their scaffolding.


And so that's where a lot of the tools that I learned in my adolescent twenties and thirties, which was, um, a whole journey of self-development or self-directed healing for me as somebody who was raised in a household that had a lot of trauma. And so for me, you know, backstory again is, you know, just understanding that, um, I'm, I'm an auto didactic. I always direct my own, um, uh, learning and always have, because my trauma response has been hyper independence. And that gave me the belief that I could learn anything. I could do anything. I don't have to follow the rules. I just need to be aware of what my, my moral compass is and the core values that I'm holding and I'm capable of doing, you know, my own self-directed healing. And that gave me access to countless tools, you know, that helped me really, um, resolve a lot of the trauma and integrate that, the trauma from my childhood and understand.


And part of the reason why I spent a good part of my, you know, teens, twenties, and thirties doing that, is because I always knew I wanted to be a parent. This was a very intentional act, and I wanted to make sure that the patterns of trauma that I experienced in my own childhood were not a part of my son's, um, experience growing up. So I really wanted to be, um, very intentional about healing my own childhood traumas and thus, you know, healing and stopping these generational wounds from, uh, perpetuating into another generation. So that was my intention. Now going back to, and I'll stop in just a second, but going back to, uh, running the Teen Retreats, little did I know that the tools that I used to help heal myself would come in handy as I'm facilitating and holding space for these immersive learning world schooling experiences for teens. Because what we recognized after taking hundreds of teens to, you know, uh, you know, dozens of international locations was the experience of the Outer Worlds was a reflection of our inner worlds. And that was one of those big aha moments for me. Yeah. So I'll, I'll just leave it there. That's, that's a brief intro to my origin story.

Speaker 2 (11:35):

Thank you, Laney. And I, I wanna come back to, uh, project World School and Teen Retreats, cuz I've got a, I do have a few questions and I wanna a little, little deeper a little later. Um, but let's go back one step. How would you explain the concept of this world schooling philosophy? You know, uh, to a parent that's never heard about world schooling before, you know, like most parents have this traditional view of the education system, maybe not have heard of world schooling and world schooling can look different to, to many different parents as well. So just talk about what is world schooling to someone who's perhaps never heard of it before?

Speaker 3 (12:06):

Sure. Well, I can tell you with 100% confidence that the term world schooling was not used before we started using it. We did tons of research and we wanted to have a name to call the thing that we were doing. Um, when we first set out, it was, like I said, to be one year. And one of the agreements that my son and I had, which would support our partnership, was we were going to say yes to as many things as we could, as long as it was in alignment with our core values. And eight months into our travels, when my son said to me, Hey, can we just keep doing this forever? This is amazing. Of course, I had to say yes. So after saying yes to that and being an avid researcher and reader, I, I, and as the responsible parent, I had to figure out how we were going to address my son's education.


And education has always been an important part of, you know, what I imagined, uh, you know, one of the values for our family and for my son and for myself. I, you know, I, like I said, I'm an auto didactic, but I believe education and learning is really, really important. And when we started to look at the different sort of pedagogies and modalities of education, I discovered there was something called unschooling, and it was something that we were already doing. And it blew my mind. It was combining natural learning the world around is self-directed learning and self inspired, you know, uh, learning or child-led learning as well as being facilitated by the parent. And it blew me away that people actually like qualified this as education. And when I got deeper into that journey of discovery around unschooling, I recognized how powerful and strong it was, and the fact that we were already doing it and it was working so well.


We were both so present and intentional about learning everything we could around us because everything was inspiring and new. And in our conventional life, we didn't have that opportunity, nor did we have time. So we continued to do it, and I started to write about it and blog about it, and something did not feel right with me. And what didn't feel right was the term unschooling because it implied that you're doing nothing, that you're not doing something. And we were actually actively and intentionally learning and we were learning from the world around us. So we started to write and call it world schooling. And crazy enough, people started reading my blogs. I, we were invited to speak at many educational conferences. I've written articles for, um, you know, some really big magazines. And, um, I've been interviewed on lots and lots of podcasts. And we did a TEDx talk about, um, world schooling and our journey.


And because people started to recognize us as the ones that were talking about it, they started to write in and ask us questions. And here we are, you know, one mall, one child traveling in Latin America, and the questions we're getting is, how can a family of five affordably do this? And, you know, I have this big question mark above my forehead, like, we're one, we're two people, I don't know how to answer this, or where should I go in Southeast Asia? And again, another giant question mark over my head. And so at the time, you know, this was really in the long, uh, the heyday of, of Facebook before it was meta. And, um, I, I thought, you know what, let's just create a community because we can crowdsource these answers with families all over, we'll call it world schooling. And we'll see folks that are interested in taking a, a trip with a family.


It could be long, could be short. And, um, let's join as community under this label and, um, really learn from one another. Now, because I, I formalized the, the movement or, or the idea of education and travel together, I not the first person in the world to do it, I'll tell you that. But I was the one to formalize it and use that, the language of world schooling. I also wanted to make sure that our community was really inclusive. I really like the idea because we're so diverse. We're from different worlds, different or same world, but different nations. And we all have different backgrounds, different likes, different political beliefs. Spiritual, religious beliefs. We're diverse. And that's one of the things that makes the world so amazing. So world schooling is defined by me, and most people that are involved in this movement have adapted this, um, definition.


So it's any family that decides to use the world as their classroom, you can have multiple different traveling styles. You could travel, uh, as a nomad nonstop. You could be an expat and move to another country. You could take vacations only and live a conventional life. You could not travel and invite people from other cultures into your world or integrate different types of media or art or theater or that kind of thing as a way of exposing your family to other ways of, of thinking cultures, you know, history, that sort of thing. And so, not only can you have different travel styles, you can also have as many education styles as there are people. You could be a homeschooler, you could be in a conventional school, you could homeschool with curriculum, you could be an unschooler like we were, which was zero curriculum. Um, you could enroll your child into a, a school in a foreign country. You could, there, like, again, the, the types of educational approaches are infinite. And I wanted to make sure that world schooling includes all of those people. The only thing that ties like that, that thread, and this is really to answer your question, I'm sorry it took me a long-winded way to get there, but it's using the world around you to inspire greater curiosity to go deeper, because we find that when you learn in context, it's deep and meaningful. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (19:31):

Yeah. That's, and thanks for the the context because, uh, you know, world schooling isn't this thing that, you know, in your case it was where you literally say, Hey, we're selling up, we're giving everything away, and we're, we're embarking a, a significant life change. But most people would struggle to do that. Yes. What what it means for most people is that they can, uh, e even have a balance of a traditional school and, you know, travel one month of the year and still expose their child to this world schooling, uh, you know, um, philosophy, uh, which I believe is so, so important. E even just as, as a parent holidaying with kids, um, the, the amount of immersive learning language that they pick up, um, uh, you know, customs and traditions and, uh, food and all that sort of stuff, it's, it's just such a rich tapestry to, to grow a life on.


Um, so let's, uh, maybe talk a little bit about some of the success stories. I'm wondering if you could share, uh, a, a success story or two, I mean, apart from your son, I mean, like, if we, if we have a look at the success that you guys have had. I mean, this is a, a young man who's co-founded a an organization part of a movement, inspiring others, uh, become an entrepreneur in his own right. Uh, if there's any success story, there's one right there. But maybe share another success story or two, um, uh, you know, whether it's from your programs or from other families that have, uh, you know, world their children.

Speaker 3 (20:49):

Well, one of the things that we did, um, after we launched Project World School, which is the Teen retreats, um, they're generally three to four week, um, a births of, you know, communities in different countries. So like, our next one coming up is in Thailand. Um, and we go to two different locations in Thailand. Um, a lot of parents loved what we were doing, and they kept saying, lady, why don't you produce something for families or, you know, trips for families, that sort of thing. And I was like, no, I don't really wanna work with the families. But I think there's great value in, in expressing the need to come together as a community and get other families and children to meet other world schooling families. To normalize that. So I started, my son and I also launched, um, project World School Family Summits, and we have hosted 10, uh, family summits or, or conferences, different places around the world over the last 10 years.


And we also have inspired amazing communities, pop-up pubs and communities to be formed because it's all about co-creation. Um, in terms of answering your question with a success story, I think anytime any human being, whether it's a child, a teen, a family, or even a grandparent becomes comfortable with creating a new idea about what, what education can be, what life can be, and and redefining what the, the term stability is. Um, that is a success story. So with the re with the summits, we would always invite the grandparents to come for free. And over the years we've had dozens and dozens of sets of grandparents come that were either on the, the fence or against their families' world schooling. But after coming to the summits, which are five days of conference talks, community meetups, kids running around, loving each other, you know, having these great, um, adventures in the project, world School, family Summit, kids camp, they saw that this is a community of kindhearted and loving people that really just wanna give the world to their children.


And through these events and through the work that I've been doing with families and with teens, the recognition that stability is not from a house or a home, it comes from the connections we have as families. Those connections are where stability is formed. And if you have this strong connection or strong bond, and it takes time, it takes work, it takes, you know, authenticity, it takes vulnerability, and it takes all of the things that my son and I, you know, started to experience over the last 15 years in our own world schooling journey. As long as it's got those things, they feel safe and secure. And it's really just a cultural belief that we can let go of that says stability only comes from a conventional lifestyle, we can let go of that because we have the experience that it's not from there. That's not stability. Stability comes from the family unit and the connection.

Speaker 2 (24:51):

Yeah. Yeah. That's wonderful. Um, you, you touched there on some of the challenges your son and you faced in, uh, co-founding project World School. So maybe talk, uh, talk us through a little bit about the process of the creation of Project World School and maybe some of the challenges that you guys faced, uh, uh, together.

Speaker 3 (25:09):

Yeah. Well, project World School actually was formed because of a challenge. My son was 13 going on 14. And like I said, I started to blog and share all of our journey, my son and I, um, uh, like our jour not just journeys, but our adventures and all the things that we would learn. And one of the first projects that we launched together was a podcast, believe it or not. I'm talking on your podcast, I don't have one now, but 15 years ago we launched a podcast and it was he and I, um, every week we would, um, produce, uh, podcasts. We'd write it, we, it would be based on where we were. We'd look up the history of wherever we were or the people that we met. And then if we were interested and met somebody interesting, we would do an interview and we'd trade off. And, and we both wrote it, we both produced it, we've both edited, and it was really this partnership project. And that project gave us the, in, you know, to connect with lots of different people. Oh boy. I just lost, what was your question?

Speaker 2 (26:24):

<laugh>, uh, did we were just talking about some of the challenges that you might have faced, you know, like in creation. Cause it's quite an organization and as well as a movement that you guys have pioneered, particularly like when you're talking a 13, 14 year old son, uh, you know, all these wonderful life. I mean, even just that example, there is so brilliant to me that you, he's editing, producing, writing podcasts. I mean, this is the life stuff that all kids should learn in my view. And, uh, you know, I'd love to see more of a shift anyway. We're talking about the cha the challenges that you guys faced in, in the creation of Project World School.

Speaker 3 (26:57):

I don't often.

Speaker 2 (26:58):

That happens to, happens to me all the time. Don't worry.

Speaker 3 (27:00):

Yeah, I mean, I don't often lose my train of thought. I know what I'm gonna say. You know, I'm, I'm responding to a question, but then I suddenly like blanked on what the question was. I'm so sorry about that. Yes. So at 13 and 14, we had already, uh, he, he was 13 and 14, we're already like three, four years into our travels. And through that time, people were listening to our podcasts, reading our blogs, inviting us to speak at different conferences around the world, um, as world schoolers. And it was great. And one of the conferences that we spoke at was an unschooling conference, um, when Miro was 14, um, in, I think it was in New Hampshire, in the United States. And that was the first time that Miro had been around. And I like to call 'em free range kids, but these are kids that are really creative and, you know, they haven't been to school, so they're very expressive.


And usually you, you think of the homeschool kids, you know, the, the boys with really long hair. Well, it's true. There is kind of like this homeschool uniform. And they're, they're also freeing, express expressive. Um, so we flew and we spoke at this conference and we spent a week there and Miro ran around with kids' age that were just like him. And that really pre presented us with this sort of like deep harrowing, um, decision that we had to make when we got back to Peru because Peru at that time was our base. We had fallen in love with our lifestyle. We loved living in Peru, we loved all of our adventures. Um, but what Miro recognized was he didn't have community, he didn't have friends. And at 13 and 14, that started to become a real big desire for him. And as I started to really study about, um, the neurobiology of adolescent development and the psychology around adolescent development, I recognize that social learning was one of the cornerstones of the adolescent experience that is so important to them.


And as they're starting to individuate, they need to have that social input that's not coming from their family. And as Miro had this experience running around with all these other free range teens, he recognized this was the thing that was missing. So we came back to Peru and we had this really deep heart to heart. And one of the, the things that my son said, you know, absolutely 100% he did not want to return to a conventional life. And that was one of the suggestions that I had. Should we return back to the States so you can find a community? No, absolutely not. And he was very clear in what he wanted, and I was like, because I didn't want it either. And so I said, well, all right then let's address the needs and let's bring teens to us cuz we're learning and we are learning so much, and we're learning by experience.


And if we can bring groups of teens to us for, you know, to have this kind of experience, this could be our business. And he's like, do you think it'll work? I was like, sure. Nobody ever told me I couldn't do it. So, you know, <laugh>, I said, okay, let's do it. And so that's where the, um, experience that I had from my marketing and branding background. We launched a business together called Project World School. Um, I got really busy learning everything I could about the teenage brain, about the psychology. I learned about conflict resolution, I learned about learning communities, I learned about hosting and facilitating. I learned improv. I learned so many things that I imagined would be necessary. And with the background that I had with, uh, the tools for mental health, which at the time I had no idea that would come in handy.


But that also became one of the things that moved into, um, our structure that we created for Project World School. And that year we launched our first project, world School, uh, teen retreat. And it was kind of a disaster. <laugh>, we didn't know what we were doing. It was a small ch uh, a small group and it was too long. It was six weeks and we didn't have our agreements set up. And, you know, we learned from all the mistakes that we had, and that really helped us to reformulate what we did and create our own very unique structure. Um, a lot of it includes accountability of our internal worlds. We also, um, integrated an element of everything that we do is based on consent, and we also base our retreats on consensus. So if you've ever had, you know, a group of 15 teenagers that you are trying to facilitate to come to an agreement, it takes skills and it sometimes takes time. So patience is a big part of that. But the structure that we created has been working for the last 10 years. And like I said, we've brought more than 200, um, teams for these one month immersive learning experiences in different places. We've been to Japan, um, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, um, Greece, Spain, uh, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, we've been all over. And the trips are really powerful. So they're, yeah,

Speaker 2 (33:22):

That's, uh, there's lots to unpack there, but one of the things I took from that was structure, you know, structure and having that scaffolding is important. Um, and, you know, world schooling isn't just something that parents can just pack up everything and, and embark on this, this journey because you're gonna miss those things, like, like the social element. So having some sort of structure around how you can facilitate those meaningful learning experiences is important as a parent, I think. And that's certainly one of the things that you, you, you took away from that, uh, early experience with you and your son. So this maybe is a good point to ask. So what, what advice would you give to a parent who's considering this? Whether it's going all in and doubling down and, uh, packing up the, the house and going on a, a world trip, or whether it's just somebody who just wants to take their child away for an immersive world schooling experience for a month or something in between. What advice would you give to a parent? Where would a parent even start?

Speaker 3 (34:15):

Well, I have a Facebook group called We are World Schoolers. And that Facebook group is a wonderful place to start because we've got, we've got dedicated threads, um, that share all of the communities that are being co-created by the members. We have, um, you know, tons of threads of conversations of people asking questions, but it's really about getting support around you. And a lot of times if we're setting out to do something that is outside of the conventional way of living, it's hard to get that support from our family or our close friends because we're, we're choosing a different, something different. And a lot of times people are not supportive. And that can be discouraging. A lot of times the, the lack of support from our immediate family or friends or community in our conventional life, they're not meaning to be mean or not supportive.


They just don't understand this, this new idea that you have. So find a community of folks that are actually world schooling. Get in some of these Facebook or join my, um, community. It's a website called We Are world org and get as much support and information as possible. And once you have that, go participate in a popup or meet another family who's in, in, you know, an area that you plan on traveling to and make sure that you're not taking this path alone. We're all seeking connections and we're seeking, excuse me, a way to belong. And that, that's part of our human desire, like our humanity really is about connecting with one another. So your families may need additional support. Um, the other thing that is a little more sort of sensitive to talk about, which is looking very clearly at your family dynamic, if something is not working in your family dynamic in your conventional life, it's gonna be amplified on the road because there's no escaping one another.


You can't go into your room, you're not going to work, you're not, you know, doing your, your regular, um, you know, habits in, in your daily life. You are together as a family. So it's a really wonderful time to be intentional about your family culture. So before you leave on your journey, of course there's the practical things like, you know, savings and, and you know, insurance and like, you know, all that stuff. Sure, that's important, but I really feel like the emotional and family connection that's gonna make or break even if you have all of the, the other stuff, the visas, the banking, the, all that, so the flies, all, if you have all that stuff taken care of, great, but you know what, you can wing that stuff and figure it out on the fly. It's, it's the connection, it's the family culture. And I always recommend to create a journey in partnership because you want your children to have as much skin in the game as you've got.


This is our family's adventure, not just me pulling you to go have a good time, cuz it's gonna be miserable and you're gonna hate the role of being the enforcer. You really want to be able to do this in partnership. And sometimes that looks like a week of downtime in a foreign country. Sometimes that looks like deciding that you're gonna leave somewhere quicker than you thought you would, or staying longer than you thought you would. So it's about the flexibility and ability to, um, communicate and really talk about what's happening in the internal world as a family, as part of your family culture.

Speaker 2 (38:46):

Some really important considerations there. Very, and I appreciate you sharing those so openly. Um, in terms of, I want to take a little step back, back to the, there's a monthlong retreat coming up in Thailand you mentioned, uh, for teens. So parents don't come along with that, do they? This is, we send the teens off to this. Okay, good, good. <laugh>, I've got, I've got a teen in mind now. Tell me a little bit about, cause this, this is, uh, maybe a selfish question, but I'm sure other parents listening will get wonderful benefit from this question as well. But, uh, what sort of activities, uh, will the, uh, you know, our teens, uh, undertake in that month long retreat? Uh, what are some of the outcomes that you're aiming for? Just, you know, what are, what are some of it look like?

Speaker 3 (39:27):

Sure. Well, a big focus is really from an internal world perspective. And then I'm gonna answer your question about the actual activities, but a big focus of our trip are two things. It's the internal world and it's the connection through community, right? So we're co-creating together. Sorry, gimme just a sec. Yeah. Okay. I'm sorry. <laugh>. So it's, it's the co-creation of community and it's really about the internal worlds. Um, one of the first things that we introduced to our teens is the recognition of what it means to be in your comfort zone. And that's really important. Each person defines what is in their comfort zone and what they actually do in order to, you know, rejuvenate to relax, to really get that, that core sense of being comf comfortable. And we ask 'em this before we come on our trip, during our pre-trip interview, right?


What's your, your, um, style of self-care? And then when we're on the trip, we talk about each person's comfort zone, and then we talk about the space that's outside of the comfort zone and in, uh, conventional, you know, vernacular, people just say, I'm in my comfort zone, or I'm so far outta my comfort zone. But we take time to actually redefine that. And we call that space outside of the comfort zone, the stretch zone. And that's the space where we're not really super comfortable. We're learning, we're stretching, we're growing, we're expanding, and it's, our trips are really outside of our comfort zone, their stretch zone experiences almost for the full month. And I'm asking our teens to notice when their stretch zone starts to actually expand. And being outside of your comfort zone takes some practice because in western culture, we're told, if you're not comfortable take a pill or, or zone out or start scrolling on technology, which we haven't talked about yet, but we can, um, or, you know, numb out somehow.


And then there's a space outside of the stretch zone that's called the panic zone, and that's your fight, flight or freeze. That's, that's your amygdala, you know, being activated. And that's, that's a really different conversation than stretch zone. So in conventional culture, we tend to smoosh the, the stretch zone and the panic zone together. So when people are in their stretch zone and not feeling comfortable, they're using panic zone, um, vocabulary. And it's designating some of these uncomfortable experiences as panic, but it's not. So it's renegotiating that. And the a so we spend a lot of time on our trips. We've got our evening, you know, um, circles where we unpack the whole day every single day. Um, and the inner world is a big part. So understanding and managing our inner world is a big part. Um, for Thailand, this is a cultural trip.


Some of our trips are adventure. Well this actually is cultural and adventure and service. So it's a little bit of everything, which is great because some of 'em are just focused on, on, like, we did a building trip in Wales and that was like living on a farm and building a roundhouse out of hay. And that was very, very specific. But this one we are volunteering, serving, uh, giving back, um, to the community that is our host country. And we're working with elephants for a week. And we're learning about the cultural relevance of why elephants are so important to the Thai culture. And we're in the north of Thailand for that portion. We start off in Bangkok and we do an overnight train, which is a fun adventure. Um, we, you know, and the sleeper cars and everything. And then we spend some time in Cheang Mai learning about the Northern Thai, uh, culture.


And then we volunteer with the, uh, elephants for a week. And then after that's over, we fly to the south of Thailand and we spend another almost week and a half in Krabby in the southern part, which is very, very different culturally. It's different from a weather perspective. And the, uh, influences in that part of the country is very different than the north we've got from the north. It's, it's a Buddhist, primarily a Buddhist, uh, culture. And they're very close to, I can never see this, my, it used to be Burma, but I can't say Mya Mok. I can, I can never pronounce it, but there, there's a big history in overflow of, of the two cultures in the north and in the south it's Muslim and it's a totally radically different culture there. So we do a lot of comparative, you know, experience, reflection as well as in the south.


We engage in some, um, uh, adventure sports. We use, we we do rock climbing. And it's kind of an analogy for, you know, the belaying and supporting another person and making sure they're safe and then trusting another person and learning safety and all of that stuff. How do we step out of our comfort zone in rock climb, especially for those that have never done it. Um, it's, it's pretty radical and it's really, really wonderful. It really combines and our, our, uh, community, we also have of course, um, Thai cooking classes in a Thai massage class. And we look into why these traditions are such an important part of the culture. So it's fun, but there's a lot of reflection in all of the experiences that we have and in all of our treats. It's, it's not just, let's just go have vacation and do fun stuff.


It's fun, but there's intention behind everything we do, including having fun, right? You have to be intentional about having fun, but it's also like, okay, this was so enjoyable, but why do you think they call this the sticky waterfalls? You know, and why are so many locals here and what does that look like? And what do you think the tradition of this place is? And those kinds of questions keep people in a state of inquiry and we're modeling curiosity. And for those that, uh, don't, don't come from, from a family that that really, um, values the act of curiosity or, or it's just, you know, not, it's like not important to the family. This is a, a huge, um, it's, it's, it's a huge influence on the teens, especially when they leave Bec and I get emails and most of the teens that come on our trips, so I'm gonna warn you, we have about a 70% return rate, meaning they come on one trip and they wanna go on another trip cuz it's so, it's such a powerful experience for the teens that are on the trip and the connections with the, the other teens that are traveling with us are, it's so strong.


Um, people really create these lifelong, uh, friendships or connections. And I'll just tell you as a side note, in July, um, my son is flying back to the states to be the best man in a wedding where two teens, they're actually now both 25, they met on one of our trips and they're getting married. So we have our first project, world School, um, wedding coming up in July. <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (48:07):

That's f that's fantastic. And I, and I love that, uh, um, uh, the intentionality behind creating that curiosity. Like I, I could just imagine the, these hoards of teens leaving these retreats and, you know, having this new, you found purpose of lifelong learning. You know, I think you're creating lifelong learners, but you're also creating a whole bunch of teams that are more self-aware Yeah. Than they were when they, when they first arrived. And, and that's tremendously powerful and tremendously important. So you guys are doing some really killer work. So, you know, you're making a massive difference in the lives of many around the world and, uh, not just in terms of helping people get into world schooling, but uh, with these retreats, uh, they, they, uh, look, look amazing and something I have to investigate further. Um, yeah, we're, we're coming towards the end, but one question I like to ask our guests, uh, on each podcast, it's a bit of a fun question and that is, if we had a time machine and, uh, you could go back and visit young Laney, maybe a 10 or 15 year old Laney, uh, what advice would you give yourself?

Speaker 3 (49:08):

Oh my gosh. Well, I'm somebody who's done a lot of inner child work and I've worked on reparenting young Laney and oh boy, I would absolutely just continue to tell her that she's loved and she's not too much for people. And that was a, a core belief that I held for many, many years as my, as as a result of the childhood trauma that I experienced. And I think, and I guess you didn't ask this question, but I'm just gonna add it here. Um, the inner work that I've been committed to doing for the majority of my life is such an important part of who I am. And it's, it's also defines the space where I connect with other teens. And I didn't know this particularly until 2020 hip and because we've facilitated a world schooling community pupil started reaching out left and right, Laney, our teen is struggling during this lockdown.


What can we do? You know, it's not just about that they can't travel with you and obviously we weren't traveling, you know, during 2020 and 2021 for the most part. Um, but it's not that they just can't travel, but they feel like the world around them is not safe. And that's when I took all the work that I had done with self and the tools that I had used and the, the techniques in tools that I facilitated on the teen retreats. And I launched, uh, transformative mentoring for teens and started teaching these skills for mental health. They're tools for mental health and they address everything from passions and purpose to shadow work, to, um, tools to overcome fear, to recognizing triggers, to limiting beliefs, to defining core values, so many different tools and all things that we use in our own lives. Very intentional. I started to facilitate with that with teens online.


And that also a year after doing that, I recognized that from the feedback that I was getting from the teens, like, oh my gosh, this helped me. I would not have gotten through, um, this pandemic if it wasn't for your mentoring, your classes and the connections that we have maintained and created during this time. And, and the, the messages that I received from parents that their, their teens were actually, um, had suicide ideation during this time, but I helped them through that by being there and showing up for them. So that prompted me to write the book with the tools and some of the stories about my own childhood, childhood traumas and things that I did to overcome those things. And I also talk about partnership parenting in my book. So the book itself, um, like if I would've told my 15 year old self, you're gonna write a book when you're in your fifties, I would've said, you're crazy because I hate writing, but <laugh> I did. And, um, yeah, yeah. So there's a book, there's courses. I still teach the courses online and I mentor teens one-on-one, um, through Zoom through the same application that we're using tonight. So yeah,

Speaker 2 (52:51):

That, that's wonderful, Laney. And, and how can parents, uh, learn more about what you do and your impact that you're providing in the courses, the summits, the books, the coaching, all of that. Where, where, where can they go? How do they find you?

Speaker 3 (53:03):

Wow, <laugh>. So transformative mentoring for is one place. Project World School is another place. The Facebook group, um, we are world schoolers, you can find me there, you can find me all over social media. We also have, we are world and that's got hundreds of articles, talks, interviews for somebody who's starting off world schooling. And it's free, it's a membership site, but it's free. There's so much information, it'll take you like a year to go through all the information that's there. So depending on what your focus is. And also, um, I also have a, a website called partnership, where my son and I co-teach, co-facilitate, um, the courses for parents who are really desiring to create more partnership in their families and how to design a family culture that will serve them if they want to world school or actually serve them, just period. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (54:11):

Yeah. That's wonderful. Thank you. Look, Laney, we've uh, we've gotta end it there, but uh, we could go on for hours I'm sure. And first of all, I appreciate your time generosity today and Carl, I know it's a bit late where you are and, uh, I know that many of our listeners, including myself, have gained an enormous amount from our discussion today and, uh, has certainly sparked some curiosity in me. No doubt many others. So thanks again for your time today and, uh, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 3 (54:36):

Thank you, Anne. I just wanna say to everybody, remain curious.

Speaker 2 (54:41):

Yeah, well said. Thanks, Laney.

Speaker 1 (54:44):

If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids Skills, samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit Skills